First Marine Commissioned at Columbia University in Four Decades

For the first time since 1970 and since the return of NROTC to campus in 2012, a U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt., Patrick Poorbaugh, will be commissioned as a Marine Corps officer May 21 at 4:30 p.m. in Low Memorial Library Rotunda at Columbia University in the City of New York.  The ceremony will feature remarks by Hon. Juan M. Garcia III, Assistant Secretary of the Navy (M&RA) as well as Brigadier General Terry V. Williams, followed by Columbia University School of General Studies student SSgt. Patrick Poorbaugh taking the Oath of Office and the Installation of Rank and Rendering of First Salute.

Staff Sgt. Poorbaugh completed U.S. Marine Corps Officer Candidate School in March of 2012 and enrolled at Columbia University School of General Studies the following fall; he will graduate on May 20, 2015 with a B.A. in political science. Poorbaugh is a part of a military and veteran community of more than 400 at Columbia University School of General Studies and said it was the commitment to veterans that attracted him to Columbia.

“Just being here, you get to experience people from everywhere and everyone has a passion,” said Poorbaugh. “It’s great to be surrounded by people who take school as seriously as you do. They all have a different take on things. You don’t get that anywhere else.”

Following his commissioning, Poorbaugh will report to The Basic School in Quantico, Virginia, and continue his career as a ground officer.

Staff Sgt. Poorbaugh enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps following his high school graduation in 2005 and was ordered to the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion in Okinawa, Japan. He deployed twice to Fallujah, Iraq, in 2006 and 2008. In 2009, he was transferred to Camp Pendleton where he served with theAmphibious Vehicle Test Branch. It was there he rekindled his passion for academia and was accepted into the highly-competitive Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program (MECEP), which allows Marines with strong academic potential to attend class full time and earn a commission through an NROTC-participating university.

“When I enlisted in 2005, I didn’t expect to be where I am now,” he said. “It’s hard to know where I will be 10 years from now.”

The School of General Studies of Columbia University is a liberal arts college in the United States created specifically for students with nontraditional backgrounds seeking a rigorous, traditional, Ivy League undergraduate degree full- or part-time. GS students take the same courses, with the same faculty, and earn the same degree as all other Columbia undergraduates. For more information about Staff Sgt. Poorbaugh or the School of General Studies graduation, contact Anna O’Sullivan at 347-268-8382 or


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